Dancers have long been the focus of photographers' lenses, and while the outcome is often a beautiful frozen moment capturing a great act of athleticism, it's rare that I'd categorize the work as fine art.
Enter Raymond Elstad. An abstract painter for more than 20 years, Elstad traded in his brushes for a camera, but he didn't leave his eye for composition or his artistry behind. ---
"I'm kind of a latecomer to photography," Elstad said a few weeks ago, as he walked me through Seduced by Dance, his solo show hanging in the hallway at Dance Place San Diego at Liberty Station in Point Loma through the end of February. "Once I got involved in it, though, I thought I was a better photographer than a painter."
Elstad's portraits of performers in the San Diego dance community are stunning and show off both his technical skill and his creative experimentation in the post-production process. Elstad often has fun with the setting of a shoot and, through Photoshop manipulation, builds a surreal world around the dancers.
"It adds a separation between the figures and the background—a floating-world kind of thing," he explains. "I initially did it as an act of desperation. The photos show the floor in my studio and there's a large stain in one area of the floor, so, at first, it was just a way for me to cut that out. But once I did do it, I enjoyed it—so, yeah, it was a happy accident."
"Four Seconds in The Life" by Raymond Elstad
While Elstad gives himself free reign as far as the background goes, he stops short of fiddling with the figures. He recognizes the inherent beauty of the dancer and, aside from posing them in creative, sometimes extraordinary ways, he leaves them alone.
"These have to have a basis in reality," he says about his work. "I'm not distorting people.... You don't want to make them look too perfect, right?"
You missed the opening of Elstad's show, but the photos are on view in a public hallway through the end of February.
More San Diego art shows to see this week
Woman on a Journey at RE-Gallery, 348 South Cedros Ave., Solana Beach. See shadow boxes and assemblages by Del Mar's Karla Leopold. Opening 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6. On view through Mar. 11. 858-259-2001, regallery.org
New Beginnings at Industry Showroom, 345 Sixth Ave., Downtown. A group art show featuring more than nine artists, with live art by True Delorenzo. Opening 7 p.m. to midnight Friday, Jan. 6. industryshowroom.com
Cascading Memorials, Reflected Self & Ed Ruscha's Books at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St., La Jolla. The Athenaeum hosts a trio of exhibitions: See photography focusing on growth and the potential for sustainable development in San Diego by Ruth Wallen; oil paintings by local artist Iris Gill; and art books featuring the works of Ed Ruscha. On view through Feb. 11. Opening 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6. 858-454-5872, ljathenaeum.org
Art Thing! at The Park Gallery, 4325 Park Blvd., University Heights. DiscoisforDancing presents this show featuring work by more than 15 local artists. There will be live music from Manifest Destiny, The Color of Glass and Pilots. All attendees will receive a 30-page comic book by Jay Franco. From 7:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7. facebook.com/theparkgallery
The Sun Don't Chill at Voz Alta, 1754 National Ave., Barrio Logan. See photography by Israel Castillo and paintings by David Smith. Opening 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7. 619-230-1869, vozaltaprojectgallery.com
Uterus Flag Project at Escondido Municipal Gallery, 262 E. Grand Ave., Escondido. This installation by Terrilynn Quick features flags with the image of a uterus stitched onto them by artists from around the country to serve as a vehicle for dialogue on women's health. From 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7. 760-480-4101, escondidoarts.org
Veganized at El Take It Easy, 3926 30th St., North Park. See new artwork by artist Acamonchi and enjoy a $20, three-course vegan dinner and mezcal tastings. Wednesday, Jan. 11. acamonchi-art.com